WATCH: Five most remarkable underdog stories at the Euros

Date published: Wednesday 1st June 2016 10:00

Euro 2016: Stage is set for action

Euro 2016: Stage is set for action

Leicester City’s success story will be a source of inspiration for several Euro 2016 sides, but they need look no further than previous tournaments… 

Teams like debutants Albania, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Wales and Slovakia will all be looking to leave their mark on the competition by creating history against more fancied opposition in France. 

While most of the tournament regulars and favourites are likely to be in the mix, as past Euros have often shown us, no one can be written off. 

Here are the five most remarkable underdog stories at the European Championships… 

5. Republic of Ireland (Euro 1988) 

Ireland

Ireland will be looking to replicate, or even better, their memorable debut at Euro 88 when they make their third tournament appearance.  

Ray Houghton’s header shocked England 1-0 in one of the competition’s biggest upsets and Ronnie Whelan’s spectacular volley against eventual finalists Soviet Union earned a 1-1 draw. 

However, Jack Charlton’s brave Irish were cruelly denied a semi-final place when Wim Kieft’s 82nd-minute header sent the Netherlands, who later won the final, through at Ireland’s expense. 

A similar performance from Martin O’Neill’s Irish in France though could be enough for a spot in the last 16 this time around. 

4. Turkey (Euro 2008) 

Turkey

Few expected an injury and suspension-hit Turkey to progress following an opening round 2-0 loss to Portugal, however, Fatih Terim’s ‘Comeback Kings’ unexpectedly reached the semi-finals. 

First Arda Turan scored a 92nd-minute goal to knock out co-hosts Switzerland, then Nihat Kahveci pounced on Petr Cech’s mistake for a late brace to sink the Czech Republic. 

In the quarter-finals against Slaven Bilic’s in-form Croatia, the Turks forced penalities – through Semih Senturk’s 122nd-minute extra-time equaliser – which they won 3-1. 

Their luck ran out against Germany in the semis, however, when Phillip Lahm scored a 90th-minute winner after Semih’s 86th-minute leveller. 

3. Belgium (Euro 1980)  

Belgium

The Belgians may be ranked as dark horses to win the Euros this summer, but back in 1980 they were rank outsiders in a group containing England, Spain and hosts Italy. 

However after drawing their first game 1-1 against England, they stunned Spain 2-1 before holding Dino Zoff’s Italy to secure top spot and a final meeting with West Germany. 

Despite losing 2-1 following Horst Hrubesch’s second goal in the 88th minute, inspirational Belgium achieved their best tournament finish to date as runners-up. 

2. Denmark (Euro 1992) 

Denmark 1992

Like the current side, Denmark had failed to qualify for the Euros in 1992. They only got in after war-torn Yugoslavia were disqualified, but boy did they make up for it… by only going and winning the tournament! 

After finishing second in a group with England, France and hosts Sweden, they upset the Netherlands – then reigning European champions – with Peter Schmeichel saving Marco van Basten’s penalty in the shootout win. 

The Danes then beat world champions Germany 2-0 in the final with goals from John Jensen and Kim Vilfort sealing an unlikely Euro success story. 

1. Greece (Euro 2004) 

Greece 2008

The Greeks had not won a game at a major tournament before and were 150-1 odds on to win Euro 2004, but Otto Rehhegal’s team defied all the odds. 

They stunned hosts Portugal 2-1 in the opening game, finished second in their group ahead of Spain and Russia, shocked Euro holders France and a much-fancied Czech Republic on route to the final. 

There Greece lightning struck twice as they again upset favourites Portugal with Angelos Charisteas scoring the only goal to complete argubly the most remarkable triumph at the Euros. 

By Aron Hegarty – @AronHegarty

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